Inequality is a choice

Image: Vice

 
 
  

By this point, you all know that the economy isn’t fair. It’s clear that it’s overwhelmingly skewed in favor of the rich and powerful, and that’s no accident. It’s been designed to keep a disproportionate amount of money and power in the hands of a small number of people no matter how poorly it affects everyone else.

As we look at this week’s news, it’s important to take a moment to remember that inequality doesn’t just “happen” – it’s created by deliberate policy decisions. Whether it’s by underfunding the IRS so that it lacks the tools to go after wealthy tax cheats, or preserving tax loopholes that allow billionaires to hide money in overseas tax havens, or even allowing corporate power to concentrate unchecked in virtual monopolies, politicians and the wealthy donors that fund their campaigns have made specific choices to enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority of Americans.

And as you’ll see with our first story, they’re not done yet. If we let them, they’ll continue to make things even worse.

GOP’s Tax Plan Would Raise Taxes by Over $1,000 Annually for Poorest Americans by Sharon Zhang
When looking at all the problems our country is facing, Senator Rick Scott (who many think may one day succeed Mitch McConnell as the top Republican in the Senate) seems to think the biggest issue is that poor Americans have too much money. A new analysis of his recently-released income tax plan would raise taxes for the poorest 40 percent of Americans by over $1,000 each year. For the poorest 20 percent of Americans, this would add up to almost 10 percent of their entire annual income. This proposal is nothing less than appalling, especially when considering just how fiercely Republicans like Rick Scott are fighting to keep billionaires and corporations from having to pay their fair share of taxes.

IRS audits the poor at 5 times the rate of everyone else, analysis finds by Aimee Picchi
A bombshell new analysis of IRS data finds that people earning under $25,000 a year are more than five times as likely to be audited by the IRS as everyone else. Thanks to years of budget cuts, the IRS lacks the resources to go after the complicated finances of the ultra-rich, so instead it disproportionately audits low-income people who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. This focus on the lower end of the income distribution may make it easier for the IRS to pad its audit numbers, but it makes no moral or financial sense. The IRS needs more funding specifically allocated towards going after the truly wealthy, many of whom pay almost no taxes at all.

Corporations Raise Prices as Consumers Spend ‘With a Vengeance’ by Jeanna Smialek
From cars to beef to donuts, Americans are spending more than ever before on a wide variety of products. Some of these higher prices are a result of corporations having to spend more on supplies and labor, but we’re increasingly seeing another major reason behind increased costs for consumers – corporate greed. This article lays out a series of corporate communications with investors, in which many CEOs brag about being able to increase profits by raising costs for consumers, often beyond what inflation calls for.

Turning the Focus on America’s Oligarchs by Evan Osnos
As we laid out last week, Russian oligarchs aren’t the only ones hiding money in offshore accounts and attacking democracy – there are plenty of American billionaires doing the exact same thing. This piece explains how recent document leaks like the Panama Papers have exposed how much the hidden money of oligarchs have influenced governments around the world, particularly on behalf of far-right politics. As many of the same people who worked to overturn the 2020 election gear up for elections this November and in 2024, this issue is more important than ever.

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